Walter Koeniger (1881-1943)
Walter Koeniger (1881-1943)
When Walter Koeniger had his first solo-exhibition at Vose Galleries’ 559 Boylston Street location in 1926, he had already been painting in Woodstock, New York for almost fifteen years. His snow-covered landscapes of rural New York and Vermont were commended with words of appreciation from most viewers of the exhibition. One critic noted: “Into his own vernacular Mr. Koeniger brings subject matter and with individual characteristics of style and technique transfers to others his accounts, some-what somber but of much dignity and pictorial effectiveness.”1 Vose Galleries represented nearly twenty paintings in this show and hence began a long history of handling Koeniger’s works.
1 H.P. “Paintings of Koeniger,” The Boston Globe, Dec. 7, 1926.Contact Vose about this artist
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While Koeniger found his home in the artistic Mecca of Woodstock, New York, he was raised in Germany to parents unsupportive of his artistic interests. His father was a builder and architect, and he expected his son to continue on his tradition and maintain the business. While few records detail Koeniger’s life prior to his immigration to the United States, it is known that he ultimately did not pursue architecture, but studied fine art under Duecker and Von Gebhard and arrived in New York in 1910.
In 1912 Koeniger joined the artist colony of Woodstock, which had been made popular as the location of the Byrdcliffe colony of arts and crafts and as the setting of the Art Students League summer school. He embarked upon a successful career in America, joining the Salmagundi Club and exhibiting with the National Academy of Design. His paintings became easily recognizable as cover images for the Literary Digest, and the magazine made frequent references to him as a skilled painter of snow who carried on the tradition of Twachtman. His technique leaned towards an Impressionist approach, but with a bolder, more expressive application of paint, similar to what Cape Ann artist Aldro Hibbard would use in later years. Painting out-of-doors in even the coldest conditions, Koeniger, like Hibbard, was devoted to working directly from observation of the natural world.
Koeniger worked with the Vose family for nearly twenty years and was featured in solo exhibitions in 1926, 1946 and 1943, the year of his death. In 1941, Robert C. Vose, Jr. wrote to the artist of his long history with Vose: “As you know, Father has long been an admirer of your work and has done his best over a period of years of hard work to build a reputation for you, and also help you out of any tight spots which you, like the rest of us, occasionally met.”2 Through the nineteen-twenties, ‘thirties and ‘forties, Vose assisted Koeniger through periods of hardship and ill health, promising to purchase works as they became available. Even after the artist’s death, the Vose family kept in close contact with his widow, Leopoldine Koeniger, and at this date, they have handled nearly 150 of his works.
2 Vose Galleries of Boston archives, Letter from RCV II to Koeniger, December 10th, 1941.